\ ə-ˈlärm How to pronounce alarm (audio) \
variants: or less commonly alarum \ ə-​ˈlär-​əm How to pronounce alarum (audio) also  -​ˈler-​ How to pronounce alarum (audio) ; -​ˈla-​rəm \

Definition of alarm

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 usually alarum, archaic : a call to arms … the angry trumpet sounds alarum— William Shakespeare
2 : a signal (such as a loud noise or flashing light) that warns or alerts also : a device that signals set the alarm to wake me at seven
3 : sudden sharp apprehension and fear resulting from the perception of imminent danger
4 : a warning notice


variants: or less commonly alarum
alarmed also alarumed; alarming also alaruming; alarms also alarums

Definition of alarm (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to strike with fear
3 : to give warning to
4 : to equip with an alarm

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Choose the Right Synonym for alarm


fear, dread, fright, alarm, panic, terror, trepidation mean painful agitation in the presence or anticipation of danger. fear is the most general term and implies anxiety and usually loss of courage. fear of the unknown dread usually adds the idea of intense reluctance to face or meet a person or situation and suggests aversion as well as anxiety. faced the meeting with dread fright implies the shock of sudden, startling fear. fright at being awakened suddenly alarm suggests a sudden and intense awareness of immediate danger. view the situation with alarm panic implies unreasoning and overmastering fear causing hysterical activity. the news caused widespread panic terror implies the most extreme degree of fear. immobilized with terror trepidation adds to dread the implications of timidity, trembling, and hesitation. raised the subject with trepidation

Did You Know?

Today we usually think of an alarm as a loud noise that awakens us or warns us of danger. Its first use, however, was in Italy as a call to arms to soldiers. The Italian phrase all’arme! means literally “to arms” or “to your weapons.” The call was borrowed into other languages and came to be shortened to alarme in early French and Middle English. The word also came to be used as the name for the cry, then for any warning, and then to any device used to sound a warning, such as a bell or a gun. Since an alarm can cause fright or worry, such feelings also came to be known as alarm. By the 17th century, the word was used as a verb, meaning “to warn of danger” and then “to frighten.”

Examples of alarm in a Sentence

Noun The alarm went off when he opened the door. The whole town heard the alarm. She set the alarm for six o'clock. The alarm went off at six o'clock. The rumors caused widespread alarm and concern. His parents have expressed alarm about his safety. The new developments are being viewed with alarm. She looked around in alarm when she heard the noise. The dog's barking gave the alarm and the intruders were caught. A passerby saw the intruders and raised the alarm. Verb I didn't mean to alarm you. The rapid spread of the disease has alarmed many people.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The Mobile Fire and Rescue Department said Thursday afternoon that investigators had begun working to determine the cause of a three-alarm blaze that broke out early Monday morning at Cotton Hall, originally known as the Protestant Children’s Home. al, "Mobile landmark damaged in blaze had long history as orphanage," 8 Oct. 2020 State fire marshals are working to determine exactly what caused the two-alarm blaze. Amy Beth Bennett,, "Hollywood mayor vows to rebuild after fire engulfs several businesses on Broadwalk," 8 Oct. 2020 The third was a one-alarm dumpster fire around 7 p.m. Sunday at 1353 N Main Street in Hampstead. Ben Leonard,, "State fire marshal investigating three Carroll County fires from the weekend," 5 Oct. 2020 The interludes between Josh and Clara could spark a five-alarm fire, but the novel blends that with Josh’s unexpected sweetness and Clara’s courage. Maureen Lee Lenker,, "Hot Stuff: New fall romances range from fluffy to fiery," 5 Oct. 2020 Officials classified Monday's blaze at the Hard Rock as a one-alarm fire. Ramon Antonio Vargas | Staff Writer,, "At Hard Rock site, sparks from blowtorches used in demolition blamed for fire, heavy smoke," 28 Sep. 2020 The five-alarm Chehalem Mountain-Bald Peak fire spanned parts of Washington and Yamhill counties. oregonlive, "Washington County fire has burned up to 2,000 acres," 9 Sep. 2020 The resulting four-alarm call sent Solano County firefighters into Mix Canyon. Lizzie Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle, "Hennessey Fire’s trail from Napa County to Vacaville," 3 Sep. 2020 San Diego firefighters are battling a two-alarm fire in a two-story building on Morena Boulevard not far from Tecolote Road, with flames shooting through the roof and heavy smoke rising into the sky. Teri Figueroa, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Crews battling two-alarm fire in Morena area building," 21 Aug. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The apps use the Bluetooth sensors in smartphones to determine possible exposure and then send anonymous notifications, all without creating the kind of government database that would alarm privacy advocates. NBC News, "Covid apps went through the hype cycle. Now, they might be ready to work.," 6 Oct. 2020 There are weeks when the quality of the opposing pass rush will alarm the offensive tackle-shorted Cowboys. Dallas News, "Expert predictions for Cowboys-Seahawks: Will Dallas keep pace with Seattle in a scoring fest?," 25 Sep. 2020 Nationwide, the coronavirus has taken a heavy toll on African Americans, a disparity that continues to alarm health researchers, lawmakers and community leaders as the country charts a path toward reopening. Washington Post, "Near birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr., a predominantly Black nursing home tries to heal after outbreak," 9 Sep. 2020 The prospect of a Republican replacing the Court’s leading liberal will alarm them as much as the prospect of Clinton choosing Scalia’s replacement. Andrew C. Mccarthy, National Review, "Replacing Justice Ginsburg: Politics, Not Precedent," 19 Sep. 2020 All of this suggests that Russia and China will continue to anger and alarm their neighbors and the world at large. Walter Russell Mead, WSJ, "Russia and China Wield Dull Wedges," 7 Sep. 2020 The overall picture of Harris’s record is one that ought to alarm anyone who believes in limited constitutional government and individual liberty. Dan Mclaughlin, National Review, "Bulverism at The Bulwark," 18 Aug. 2020 For that reason, the high numbers do not necessarily alarm Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box. Shari Rudavsky, The Indianapolis Star, "Why 1,000 new cases of coronavirus a day may not be a red flag," 15 Aug. 2020 In theory, violators could face up to two years in prison, though there is speculation that authorities are trying to merely alarm people into obedience because the measure appears extremely difficult to enforce. Debora Rey, Star Tribune, "Nerves fray in Argentina, where some flout pandemic lockdown," 12 Aug. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'alarm.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of alarm


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1586, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for alarm


Middle English alarme, alarom, from Middle French alarme, from Old Italian all'arme, literally, to the arms

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Learn More about alarm

Time Traveler for alarm

Time Traveler

The first known use of alarm was in the 15th century

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Statistics for alarm

Last Updated

15 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Alarm.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for alarm


How to pronounce alarm (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of alarm

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a device that makes a loud sound as a warning or signal
: a feeling of fear caused by a sudden sense of danger
: a warning of danger



English Language Learners Definition of alarm (Entry 2 of 2)

: to cause (someone) to feel a sense of danger : to worry or frighten (someone)


\ ə-ˈlärm How to pronounce alarm (audio) \

Kids Definition of alarm

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a warning of danger The dog's barking gave the alarm.
2 : a device (as a bell) that warns or signals people a car alarm
3 : alarm clock Set the alarm for six o'clock.
4 : the feeling of fear caused by a sudden sense of danger She was filled with alarm on hearing the crash downstairs.


alarmed; alarming

Kids Definition of alarm (Entry 2 of 2)

: to cause to feel a sense of danger : worry or frighten Their strange behavior alarmed us.

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